is it time for a change?
An Azawakh photographed at the World Show in 2002
I HAVE to report an imminent explosion in the Imported Breeds Register, and with serious problems already apparent, this could have detrimental effects on several breeds.
The imported Breeds Register (IBR) has been with us now for 19 years, and when it began its function was straightforward.
Any new breed of dog brought into the UK, such as the Cesky Terrier, Greenland Dog and Havanese, could expect to serve a development period and then, when established, would transfer to the Breed Register as a rare breed (ie a breed on the Breed Register without CCs awarded).
All dogs needed to go through quarantine and this held the system in check simply by virtue of the detrimental effects of the quarantine system.
It was an artificial barrier that held back the flood gates. In recent years there has been one major change that has had tremendous impact on the IR. This was the arrival of the pet passport and the end, substantially, of the quarantine system.
In the early days of the IBR consisted of a handful of breeds going through the system as intended. The system wasnt perfect, but it fulfiled its function as it was designed. Since then the goalposts have been shifted and the IBR simply doesnt function that way any more. The failure of the Kennel Club to move with the changing times has created a huge anomaly.
Put simply, I believe the register doesnt work any more!
What is required is a root and branch overhaul of the relevant regulations and this article offers a suggested new blueprint for its future operation.
Many people have suggested that the IBR should be scrapped altogether, but this would create as many problems as it would solve. In February this year the Daily Mail and other newspapers and TV carried a story headlined The Pharaoh Dog - Crufts debut for the proud guardian of Tutankhamun. This was a great publicity job, but it glossed over the fact that this new breed consisted of Milena - a single dog. And so the Cirnecco del Etna came to be on the IBR, with just one dog registered in the breed. Within the last few months, we have seen a repeat not once but several times, in fact new breeds entered in the IBR are, in 2003, running at the rate of one new breed every month!
The most recent entry is the Azawakh, while several others are in progress including the Schappendoes, and the Portuguese Rabbit Dog. The Kennel Club tells me that enquiries re new breeds have mushroomed in the last year, and serving the applications is a sizeable chunk of every working week. It is absolutely certain that there is a definite trend towards an imminent IBR explosion!
What has happened is that this is now a register if unequals, but still governed by the same old rules. The old IBR regulations may be fine for the Azawakh and the Cirnecco, but, because of the imbalance, it is holding back breeds like the Pyrenean Sheepdog and the Bracco Italiano that are worthy of promotion to rare breed status.
My solution would be to make the IBR a two-tier register. New breeds with small numbers, such as the Azawakh, plus the breeds which have been around for years, but are mere curiosities, like the Mexican Hairless, should remain governed by the current rules, but with a strong account on development, and this could be termed the IBR Development Section.
There should however be the opportunity of a different level for progressive IBR breeds.
Therefore I suggest that there be an IBR Progressive Section for the most progressive breeds. There should be a qualifying entry level, and this section should incorporate those breeds that are, as the name suggests making progress, appearing in IBR classes at championship shows, demonstrating reasonable numbers, good diversity of bloodlines, and good quality in UK examples of the breed. There should also be a requirement for a good spread of responsible interest expressing itself in a breed club recognised by the KC.
I would suggest that the following 12 breeds should comprise this new progressive section - 1 Kooikerhondje, 2 Russian Black Terrier, 3 Spanish Water Dog, 4 Bracco Italiano, 5 Grande Bleu de Gascogne, 6 Lagotto Romagnolo, 7 Dogue de Bordeaux, 8 Pyrenean Sheepdog, 9 Swedish Lapphund, 10 Coton de Tulear, 11 German Longhaired Pointer, 12 Beauceron.
Lets examine the claims of some of the breeds on this list. The Kooikerhondje and the Swedish Lapphund first arrived in 1988 and have shown a steady increase in numbers, both with over 100 registrations.
The Grande Bleu de Gascogne and the Pyrenean Sheepdog arrived shortly after, but again have passed the magic 100 barrier.
The Spanish Water Dog numbers over 100 since arriving in 1994.
The Bracco Italiano was first imported in 1991 and numbers exceed the 100, but is a breed of exceptional quality both among the UK representative and on the international scene. The breed has won BIS at many international champ shows including the World Show, in recent years.
The Russian Black Terrier has been with us for five years, registering nearly 200 dogs and has excellent quality including several continental champions. Coton de Tulears have been with us for 15 years and numbers are rising towards the 100 mark. The breed has exceptional quality in the UK. In recent years several continental champions have competed against each other with on one occasion, three Coton champions competing for Best IBR. The breed has won BIS at recent international shows in Europe.
The Dogue de Bordeaux has seen a most unusual and startling rise to popularity. First appearing in 1996 their registered numbers exceed 2,500 with the last three years registrations being 551, 661 and 797. This level of registrations, at almost 800 per year, is on a part with old-established breeds like the Old English Sheepdog and the Airedale, and well exceeds the annual increase in the Pembroke Corgi and Wire Fox Terrier. It surely is a serious anomaly that breeds such as this are not allowed a club show, or to compete for group or BIS, nor even to enter the the local canine societys match night!
At present IBR breeds are only allowed to compete in IBR classes, and to hold a single annual club match for their breed alone, or versus one other IBR breed. I suggest that, once the listed requirements have been achieved, these progressive breeds should be allowed into the mainstream fold of the KC, and should be allowed new privileges that are, at present, denied.
1 Compete for group and BIS.
2 Hold an annual breed club Open show
3 Compete in AV/AVNSC classes, companion dog shows and matches
4 Have breed classes scheduled at certain specified open shows.
5 Have consideration given to scheduling breed classes at championship shows.
There are three further issues.
There is no published criteria for a breed to progress from the IBR to the Breed Register. The Kennel Club say that every application from an IBR breed club is considered on its merits. The KC will not publish a criteria and consequently the playing field is constantly shifting. In one year a breed can achieve recognition with less than 60 dogs registered (as was achieved by the Greenland Dog), whilst in another year the Dogue de Bordeaux is still stuck on the IBR with over 2,500 registrations. There is no understanding the system, and it appears that it is very much a lottery and down to the collective whims of whosoever is on the KC committee at the time!
This cannot be raised directly with the KC because there is no channel of representation for the IBR breeds, or the IBR breed clubs, at any level within the KC. In the KC Yearbook page 3. 193 clearly shows that Provisional Breed Clubs are specifically excluded from the KC Liaison Councils. (Provisional Breed Club status consists only of recognised IBR breed clubs).
There was an attempt, a few years ago, to form a group club for the IBR, but this was refused by the KC on the grounds that such a club would cut across the existing groups.
There was a success in commencing a club for owners and exhibitors of IBR dogs, but as breeds such as the Cesky Terrier and Australian Shepherd were transferred off the IBR then membership was lost - and the club fell away. So there is no club for the IBR, no Group Club, nor a members club. In fact there is no form of representation at any level.
It should be noted that the award of BIS at international championship shows on the continent carries with it the automatic qualification for Crufts. Last year several exhibitors of Coton de Tulears and Bracco Italiano, who had won BIS at European champ shows, were very disappointed even indignant to find that their automatic qualification for Crufts could not be exercised because the KC will not schedule IBR classes at Crufts. In my view the Crufts schedule should include every continental breed that has qualified by right in Europe.
Certainly this would give us the opportunity to see the best of European dogs - with no artificial IBR barrier.
The IBR is really an idiosyncrasy, a hangover from the past, but perhaps it is a necessary evil. Because it has never been modernised in nearly 20 years it has been, and continues to be a trap for some very good dog breeds that should be allowed to develop, but are held back artificially and suffer a quashing of enthusiasm amongst their exasperated supporters.
Please, kennel Club, let us have a new look at the Imported Breeds Register, because this is surely a case where future progress requires changes now.